Online resource center to help you explore these key issues, and others, regarding your estate.

Practice Areas

Mr. Miller has many years of experience in designing and implementing a comprehensive variety of Trusts, Wills, and other estate planning documents, as well as settling estates in the most expedient and appropriate method. Further, he counsels and assists clients on becoming eligible for VA benefits and Medi-Cal.

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VA Pension/Aid & Attendance/Medi-Cal

Mr. Miller has been active in the area of VA Pension and Medi-Cal for well over a decade. He uses various specialized types of Trusts as well as non-trust strategies to gain eligibility for his clients and save the family money.

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Probate & Estate Administration

Mr. Miller has been settling estates (both simple and complex) for well over 40 years. The starting point is always to create a strategy to settle the estate in the most efficient manner possible with a minimum of taxes. Often times the strategy created allows the family to bypass Probate Court proceedings.

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Am I Entitled to Anything?

By merv,

  Filed under: Estate Planning, Probate & Estate Administration

When a death in the family is imminent, potential beneficiaries often want to know what they will receive and when.  It is a natural part of wanting to plan one’s own finances and, when other family relationships are strained, to make sure others are not taking advantage of an ill family member.  However, speaking to loved ones about their estate planning or finances can feel intrusive and embarrassing.  Unfortunately, having a conversation  is the only way to get answers because, as it happens, you are not automatically entitled to anything.

Before someone is actually deceased, a Will is not an effective document.  A trust, on the other hand, owns property in the present, but is in the hands of the trustee.  In both cases, the living estate planner may make any changes during life they want.  During this time, no one, except a trustee, is entitled to a copy or any other information about the provisions of the documents.  Indeed, estate planners often choose to keep this information secret for a variety of reason, including preventing a temptation to persuade them, keeping a disinheritance private, or knowing that the plan is still somewhat tentative.  As a result, it is not unusual not to have a copy or see a copy of the estate plan.  However, it is useful to find out whether an estate plan was created or who the attorney was.  After death, you are entitled to notice of the probate or trust administration and a copy of the will or trust if you would have been an heir at law.

Upon seeing the documents, the distribution called for determines how remaining assets will be distributed.  However, distributions are made to beneficiaries only after all debts and administration expenses have been paid.  Particularly in situations where the deceased person was afflicted with long-term illness, debts may exceed assets available for distribution.  Furthermore, some people accumulate large debts later in life that they do not disclose to other family members.  Although it is sometimes possible to work with creditors to settle or resolve claims against the deceased person’s assets, there is no guarantee of inheritance.

When assets for distribution remain, the beneficiaries named in the will or trust will receive the inheritance, absent certain circumstances.  First, the will or trust must be valid.  If there is reason to believe that fraud, undue influence, or capacity is concerned, then then documents may be challenged in court.  However, challenging such documents can be an uphill battle.  Additionally, surviving spouses and minor children are entitled to certain benefits from the estate for a limited period of time.  Surviving spouses are, of course, entitled to their community share of the assets.

In short, even though the curiosity to know what an inheritance will be or how much to expect, it is often impossible to know whether a person is entitled to anything before the death occurs and administration has begun.  Even surviving spouses and children may have only limited claims on the estate’s assets!

A Survival Guide for Those Left Behind: The Price of a Loved One’s Dying Done Right…
FREE REPORT: This complimentary report, focused on what do you do when you find your husband expired on the floor, is comprised of many of Mr. Miller’s articles from his long running column for the largest regional newspaper in San Diego County. This report is written in easy to understand, plain English, and will guide you through the questions surrounding the death of a loved one.


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About Living Trusts

About Living Trusts is hosted by the Law Offices of Merwyn J. Miller, as your online resource center to help you explore these key issues, and others, regarding your estate.

Merwyn J. Miller, J.D.

  • Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law
  • Co-Author of legal text book and of “Don’t Go Broke in a Nursing Home
  • Teacher of law courses at public and private colleges
  • Continuing Education Instructor for attorneys
  • Columnist for largest regional newspaper in San Diego County and professional journals for 15 years, Contributing author to the book “In Your Service: The Veteran’s Friend”
  • Masters Degree in Financial Services - Estate Planning

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